The federal court is warning Imperial Pacific International (CNMI) LLC that it will have its officials arrested if they fail to appear before the court for the next hearing.
In the lawsuit filed by the U.S Department of Labor against IPI, District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona Manglona ordered IPI’s chair Cui Li Jie and former chief executive officer Donald Browne to appear before the court on Jan. 21 at 8:30am, with a warning that failure to appear may result in the issuance of a bench warrant for their arrest.
As the USDOL case moves forward, Manglona wants IPI to explain why it should not be held in contempt for violating a consent judgment in April 2020 that requires IPI to pay back wages, liquidated damages, and civil monetary penalties. Manglona also wants these IPI officials to explain why they should not be ordered to purge themselves of their contempt pursuant to federal rules of civil procedure and the Fair Labor Standards Act.
USDOL, in its petition for contempt, had accused IPI executives of unlawfully requiring stranded employees to work without pay during a global pandemic, and failing to meet the workers’ basic necessities or provide for their return to their home countries.
USDOL wants the federal court to enforce the April 11, 2019, consent judgment and to issue an order finding IPI, Cui, and Browne in civil contempt for violating the consent judgment. USDOL said IPI executives should pay $3.36 million to their employees, and pay USDOL $1.38 million in back wages owed under the judgment.
USDOL said IPI should be required to place $2 million in an escrow account prior to their employees resuming work.
Browne has since informed the federal court that he is no longer the CEO of IPI since Dec. 17, 2020, and denied any knowledge of any previous consent judgment.
Last year, IPI agreed to a consent judgment with the USDOL to settle and resolve the labor violations by construction contractors of IPI. Under that consent judgment, IPI agreed to pay USDOL $788,000 for back wages, liquidated damages, and civil monetary penalties.
The consent judgment, which prohibits IPI and its agents from violating labor laws, was signed by Cui, her lawyer, Eugene R. Sullivan, and Boris Orlov, senior trial attorney for the USDOL.